July 26, 2007

Power plant proposed

Mojave Desert considered for world's biggest solar station

San Bernardino Sun
Andrew Silva, Staff Writer

The largest solar power plant in the world has been proposed for the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County, it was announced Wednesday.

Pacific Gas & Electric reached a deal to buy power from Israel-based Solel Solar Systems, which plans to build a $2 billon plant covering nine square miles. It could be operating by 2011.

The plant would generate 533 megawatts of power, enough to power 400,000 homes.
In contrast, Southern California Edison's 2-year-old Mountainview Power Plant in Redlands generates 1,054 megawatts.

Solel is looking at three locations for the plant. One is north of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, another is northwest of Needles, and the third is near the Nevada border between the 15 Freeway and the 40 Freeway.

Company officials hope to make a final decision on a location after an environmental review late next year or early 2009, said Vanessa Loftus, a spokeswoman for Solel.

Two sites are on land administered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the third is on private land, she said.

PG&E doesn't serve this area, so power generated would go to customers from Bakersfield to the north.
The technology would be the same as that at the solar generating station at Kramer Junction, the intersection of Highway 58 and Highway 395.

Rows of curved mirrors, called troughs, concentrate the sun's energy onto a pipe carrying a liquid that can reach temperatures high enough to boil water.

For more than two decades, San Bernardino County has been the testing ground for large-scale solar projects.

Plants at Kramer Junction and Harper Dry Lake produce more than 300 megawatts of power on about 2,000 acres. Southern California Edison buys all the power from those plants.

The new solar plant would help California meet its target of getting 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2010.

SCE is also aggressively pursuing contracts to buy renewable power, said Stuart Hemphill, director of renewable and alternative power.

The company recently signed a contract for 1,500 megawatts of new wind power in the Tehachapi Mountains.

A number of companies are looking to produce new clean power with California leading the way on renewable energy and its mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"There's a tremendous influx of venture capital," Hemphill said.

Though the proposed locations for the new solar plant are remote, PG&E can tap into existing transmission lines that served the coal-fired Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nev.

That plant shut down at the end of 2005 after years of controversy over its effect on the air in Grand Canyon National Park.

Solar plants are appropriate for this desert area because during hot summer days, up to half the electricity consumed is used for powering air conditioning units, Loftus said.